Monday, October 15, 2018

Catching Up and Something New

Happy Monday!

Anniversaries are on my mind. As I shared yesterday, Mr. Berkley has now been with us for 12 weeks...and counting :) This past week, it occurred to me that I have a blog anniversary coming up. On October 20, 2009, I wrote my first ever blog post. Nine years ago, amazing! Lots of highs, and sadly, some pretty deep lows. But, that's life. This past year was an especially difficult year. Nothing to do with sewing, or designing. I am still working on the story. What I have found interesting is how emotionally draining the project has been. All the more reason that it needs to be written. More on the past 9 years in a few days.

This past summer, my husband and I were in Colorado. I love Colorado in the winter, and now I love it just as much, if not more in the summer. The picture below was taken at Rocky Mountain National Park. No, I was not hiking in that skirt!!!

One morning, Berkley went crazy, barking and running through the house. I looked out, and to my amazement, there was a GREAT BIG bear walking across the road. Without thinking, I grabbed my phone and ran out on the deck. As the bear came closer, I looked at where the bear was, how close he was to the stairs, and how far I was from the door. I decided it was time to run back inside :/ 

I had quite a bit of company over the summer. I decided that a lovely take home gift for all would be to make pillowcases. The middle pair were given to a friend who is starting a new life in Helena, MT. I am so very excited for her. I'll share her story at some point. She is one of the most inspiring people I know.

The pair below went to Austin, Texas. She loves them, and commented that she doesn't know what it is, but she actually sleeps better on these pillowcases. Maybe it's just the pillow, but then, it might be because they were made with love :) 

I gave a friend of mine one of my tea towels. I told her to use it in a bread basket. She posted this picture on Instagram and said that she thought it was too beautiful for bread and decided to put it on her back instead. What an honor :) She is another super inspiring friend of mine. Another story I should share. I absolutely think the world of her!

I had the honor of meeting this sweet lady. A number of years ago now, my husband and I were stuck in Lincoln, Nebraska due to an ice storm. I mentioned it on the blog. That prompted Joan to send a note. Since then, we have stayed in touch. She actually had a dream about meeting me! When she told me the story, I knew I had to make it happen. We shared such a lovely morning. She picked me up and took me to her church for morning mass and breakfast. Such a perfect start to the day. Gracie is always starved for a little love...Berkley...much more interested in whatever is going on ;)   

Joan gave me the sweetest gift. She actually chose the fabric just for me. Such an honor. The bags have metal measuring tapes in the top, so they snap shut. I am not sure if Joan used a pattern for the bags, but I will find out, and if she did, I'll share the info. Aren't they an absolute treasure?!!!

And finally, my something new...
This Sunday I will announce a new blog that I will be writing. It will not be for everyone, that's why I decided to make it completely separate from this blog. But, it has been on my heart for quite some time, so I am especially excited to have finally gotten it up and running. You'll find the link in next Sunday's Sunday Night Reflections post. I will only be posting once a week on that blog, but I think it will be quite special.

More to share, but that's enough for now :)
Wishing you a wonderful and happy week!

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday Night Reflections

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Sunday's Soup/Cauliflower, Leek and Sage Soup

It is a gorgeous fall day here in Chicago! Yesterday marked our 12th week anniversary since Berkley came to live with us, so today, we took he and Gracie to my favorite nature preserve for a lovely hike in the woods. What a joy this little dog has been. He has added love, laughter(us laughing, not him), and enough mischief to make it all the more fun. Some of you will think I'm crazy, but hear me out...
From the beginning, Berkley has stood up on his hind legs with his front feet up in the air whenever he is excited. Without thinking, each and every time, I have said, "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!" My husband said, "I think he is saying, Hallelujah! Praise the Lord...I live with Rhonda now!!!" Believe it or not, I have actually taught the dog to stand on his hind feet and put his front feet in the air on command. I raise my hands up, and then say, "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!," and little Mr. Berkley follows suit. I'll have to get a video made to prove it. For those of you who may feel it a bit sacrilegious, I apologize, but it really is quite sweet :)

Since I began sharing soup recipes, we have had MANY versions of Cauliflower Soup of some sort. You can find them all HERE. In the link, you will also see links to my cauliflower wraps, as well as my mac and cheese with roasted cauliflower. That's a Christmas Eve favorite! Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable.

We all love dishes with fabulous flavor, and we also like to be able to present our families with wholesome food. The soup I am sharing today is really quite basic, but so versatile. In fact, this evening, I am mixing a little soup in with some leftover Lentil Nut Loaf that I have crumbled, and will pour over egg noodles. A great way to stretch out an item that isn't quite enough for more than 1. 

This cauliflower soup is full of leeks. I love leeks! Begin with 6 cups of chopped leeks, the white part only. Saute the chopped leeks in oil until tender, and then add 3 chopped cloves of garlic, along with 1 tablespoon of celery seed. I could have used celery in the recipe, but I love the full, rich flavor of celery seed. 

Once the leeks are tender, add 2 heads of chopped cauliflower to the pot. Add 8 cups of vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Cook until the cauliflower is tender and begins to fall apart.

Another favorite of mine is sage. Sage just tastes like fall to me, and there's nothing like fresh sage. For this recipe, I used 3 tablespoons of fresh, chopped sage.

At this point, you are ready to puree the soup. I like to use a handheld mixing wand, but a blender will work well too. Once the soup has been pureed, add more vegetable broth to bring the soup to desired consistency. Add salt and plenty of black pepper to taste. Simmer the soup until it is warmed through.

I didn't do this before I took the picture, but a lovely touch for your soup is to fry a few sage leaves as a topping. Simply add a bit of oil to a small pan. Place the sage leaves in the hot oil for about 5 seconds per side. I could eat an entire bowl full of fried sage! Garnish the soup with the fried sage leaves.

Cauliflower, Leek and Sage Soup

2 large head of cauliflower broken into florets
6 cups chopped leeks
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 bunch fresh sage
1 tablespoon celery seed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
12 cups vegetable broth

Heat oil in large soup pot. Add chopped leeks and saute on medium heat until tender. Add chopped garlic. Saute another minute to release flavor, but not burn the garlic. Add celery seed, along with the cauliflower and 8 cups of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower is tender and beginning to fall apart.

Puree soup until creamy. Add 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage. Adjust the consistency of the soup. Bring the soup to a boil once again, reduce heat and simmer until heated through.

To serve, fry fresh sage leaves in a small amount of olive oil, 5 seconds on each side. Place soup in bowls, top with fried sage and enjoy!

This recipe makes a very large quantity of soup. Freeze smaller batches to use in any dish where a cream soup is called for, or just to enjoy at another time. 

This past week, I warmed up a bowl of the soup and made a grilled cheese sandwich for my lunch. That and a cup of tea...HEAVEN!

Hope you enjoy the soup!

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Night Reflections

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Sunday's Soup/Italian White Bean and Vegetable Soup

It's always interesting, at least to me, how a memory can be triggered. In my early twenties, I was working, going to school, paying rent, making a car payment, and there were times when my money just wouldn't stretch any further. So, a bag of beans and a bag of rice were on the menu. Not very exciting, but, I never went hungry. You would think that after weeks of eating beans and rice, I would not want to go anywhere near a bag of beans. But, rather than a difficult memory, a bag of beans represents comfort and warmth :) 

The soup recipe I'm sharing today is a very far cry from a dish of beans and rice. Actually, there's no rice in the soup. Instead, it's filled with fabulous fall vegetables, carrots, zucchini, purple top turnips, potatoes, and a bag of large white beans.

There is a little surprise ingredient, and that's an onion that is studded with 8 cloves. The onion is cooked along with the beans and vegetables, and then discarded once the soup is ready. This is something that my grandmother would do, and it really adds a wonderful richness to the soup. 

This soup is a great dump and go recipe. Just chop up all of the vegetables, throw them in a big pot with the white beans. It's also a great soup to make in a crockpot. 

Below you can see the clove studded onion cooking along with the vegetables. I wish there was smell-o-vision!!! 

The soup is perfect for a cool fall evening. It will freeze well, so eat half and save the rest for another meal. 

Italian White Bean and Vegetable Soup

1 1 lb. bag of dried large white beans
2 lbs. zucchini
2 purple top turnips
1 lb. carrots
3 stalks celery
1 large onion
1 medium onion studded with 8 cloves
3 bay leaves
1 25 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
12 cups vegetable broth
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse beans and soak overnight. 
Drain and rinse beans. Place in a large pot with vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Chop all vegetables except the onion studded with cloves. Place all vegetables in soup pot. Add tomatoes(do not drain), studded onion, basil, oregano, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and salt and black pepper. Return to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 3 hours, or until beans are tender. Before serving, remove clove studded onion and the bay leaves. 

Serve with crusty garlic bread and enjoy!

If you would like to cook the soup in a crockpot:
Place all ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. 

Hope you enjoy the soup...and the beans as much as I do!

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Morning Inspiration/Put a Stripe In It!

Simple joys, simple gifts.

Last Saturday marked 9 weeks since little Mr. Berkley came to live with us. What a joy he has been. I don't think I've stopped smiling in the last 9 weeks! He has brought so much joy into our home, and without doing anything more than just being himself. 

This morning as I drank my tea, I sat and enjoyed watching he and Gracie race from 1 end of the house to the other. One chased the other, and when they came to the wall, they turned and the other was in the lead. Hilarious! Then they would stop, breathe heavily for a moment, and then off they would go again. Berkley has brought Gracie back to life, warmed my heart, and put a smile back on my face. I'll never know, but I think it's his way of simply saying thank you. 

I call this picture, "Before and After Rhonda" :)
On the left is the picture I saw on the internet prior to adopting Berkley. He's dirty, and now that I know him, I can see that he is afraid. On the right...pure joy!

It's interesting how athletic wear has permeated every aspect of today's fashion. It's no longer relegated to just the gym, you see athletic inspired details in pants, tops, dresses, jackets, and coats. An athletic stripe is a perfect detail to add interest and elongate the body.
I recently came across this picture and fell in love! I love the little flounce on the back of the top, the stripe that curves across the back and then radiates into the stripe on the pant. The only change I would make would be to eliminate the stripe around the bottom of the pant. 

Another soft, flowy top with a athlesure inspired pant. 

The stripe that runs down the pant leg is repeated simply in the band on the sleeve. 

This ensemble is from Addias.  

I love how the stripe curves across the back of the jacket and then elongates the body by bringing the eye down to the stripe in the pant.

This piece is just so lovely. The soft ruffle that is sewn into the stripe on the blouse and then brought into the pant. 

This piece makes me long for a cool day. The stripe runs down the sleeve and then down into the pant. Love the play on color blocking too.

Love the echo of the stripe in the duster, and then in the pant.

Here the stripe has been added to a dress. Although it's a rather wide stripe, it blends in so beautifully with the plaid in the main fabric. 

There are so many aspects of our lives that on the surface can seem simple, watching dogs run, a cup of tea on a cool rainy day, or even an outfit that makes us feel great each and every time we slip into it. 
May you find a simple joy, a simple gift in your day :)

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Sunday, September 23, 2018